Kenya’s Tourism Minister Najib Balala sacked
(eTN) - A cabinet reshuffle announced this afternoon in Nairobi revealed that Kenya’s successful and widely-respected Minister of Tourism, presently also the Chairman of the UNWTO Executive Committee, was unceremoniously dumped from his ministerial post after reportedly locking horns with his ODM party Chairman and presidential aspirant Prime Minister Odinga, whom he had accused of undemocratic if not dictatorial practices in the run up to ODM’s nomination of a presidential candidate.
Balala is expected to now turn his back on the party and eventually seek a new political home but at the very least is thought to now vote alongside President Kibaki’s parliamentary support group.
Balala’s close-up and hands-on style of managing sector affairs is largely credited with the revival and record results for Kenya’s tourism industry over the past three years, after a significant downturn in 2008 following widespread election violence.
While many in the sector, according to a number of messages already received, will be unhappy with this turn of events, Balala’s little-known successor, the member of parliament for the Voi constituency Danson Mwazo, makes his first ever appearance on the front bench. He will first have to establish a rapport with the tourism private sector, of which sections already feel that a change of guard in this difficult year, when Kenya is in the run up to another election and facing the downturn of the world economy, would need continuity and not upheavals, possible giving the new minister a hard time for the slightest faux pas or misstep in speeches.
Balala last year was elected as Chairman of the hugely influential UNWTO Executive Committee from which he is also now expected to retire at the next possible time, no longer serving in a ministerial capacity, also robbing that body of his experience and counsel. A former mayor of Mombasa, Balala, like few others before, understood the needs and requirements of the sector and has been an energetic lobbyist year after year to allocate greater funding to the Kenya Tourist Board for marketing the country abroad.
For now, although he will undoubtedly make a comeback sooner or later, it is a fond farewell to Najib and welcome to the hot seat to Danson Mwazo.